LIFE AS A BENGALS FAN - PART I
“Bad Decisions, Embarrassment, and Betrayal...”
BY MICHAEL A. LAMBERT
Michael is a native of Cincinnati, A DIE-HARD Bengals fan, and a regular guest on That's Game! Sports, where he shares his extensive sports knowledge on the NFL, the NBA, Boxing and more!
When I think about the Bengals, my stomach hurts....thinking back how as a kid, my hopes were so high, and I believed we would be a pretty good team. I was stoked by the idea of having a hometown football team, MY football team, a team to be proud of, you know, so I could wear the colors and be proud of my team, and I would be a fan of my team, a loyal fan, A Bengals Fan!
Well, it hasn’t gone too good…those hopes are now a collection of; roller coaster rides, competitive disappointments, loss opportunities, bad decisions, embarrassment and betrayal, yes betrayal. The Cincinnati Bengals organization from the very top to the fifty third member of our “Jekyll and Hyde” or more like “don’t believe the hype” poorly coached football team has flat out betrayed us…The Fan, The Bengals Fan.
I remember…I remember it like it was yesterday, 1968, riding home from school driving past the site of the new stadium, the new home, of the newest team in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals! Until then I was a dedicated Cleveland Browns fan. Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, and Paul Warfield just to name a few of my favorites. I had a number 32 jersey my dad gave to me and I wore it so often my mom threatened to bury it in the yard to keep me out of it. I remember Sundays gathered around the black and white, antennas split out, or maybe one straight up and the other pointing out to the side. Whichever way delivered the best reception, watching the football game.
My father loves football and still does to this day. He would explain every intricate detail of the game. What play was just ran, what he would do on the next play, why the guy in the striped shirt was moving the ball backwards, when it was 10 yards forward just a play ago. He would point out good and bad decisions made by coaches and players alike, but in the end it was always about the game. Oh, how much fun and interesting those times were…my brothers and I were hooked on football from the time we could walk, and we couldn’t wait for the first Bengals game. To be truthful, losing wasn’t even a thought. Paul Brown was our coach, a legendary innovator, awesome leader, and a football genius and we knew it would be only a matter of years before we would host our very own Lombardi Trophy. Yeah right, the Bengals, Super Bowl Champions? LOL…the early years were great.
Actually, we surprised people. We went to two Super Bowls…lost them both…in historic fashion too. Both devastating loses came at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. We actually played them tough both times, but you know tough doesn’t mean anything without the W. The first Super Bowl we were down 20-0 and came back to lose 26-21. The second time…I’ll just ask you to think back and remember “The Drive” yeah, Joe Montana decided to carve his legacy up and down our Cincinnati backs. We couldn’t stop him. Remember, Bengals up 13-6 in the forth quarter and here comes old Joe, once to Jerry Rice (you know him right?) for the head shot, and then with the score 16-13 Bengals he surgeon like executed the 92 yards in 11 plays stake through the heart 10 yarder to John Taylor. Final score 20-16 San Francisco. Do the 49ers get an asterisk besides their Super Bowl titles in 81’ and 88’. They should, heck, they did beat the Bengals in those years. Hum, Just a thought…
Paul Brown, the brains, heart and soul of the Bengals would pass on in 1991, rest his soul and I’ve got to say, we haven’t been "ish" (can I say that?) since. Mr. Brown knew how to build a culture, develop talent and win, his son Mike Brown is nothing close to his dad. His first issue is his inability to trust outside football experts. He has no presence, charisma or the skills required to formulate and build a culture. Are these attributes necessary, maybe, or maybe not, but SOMEBODY has to lead. There’s nothing wrong with working the purse strings, especially if it’s YOUR money, but as the saying goes…you pay for what you get. This man isn’t your typical tight or historic stingy, he’s parsimonious. He has every freakin' dime of his money on lock. With him it’s all about profits.
Ok, nothing wrong with making sure the business is financially sound, but when you don’t provide the tools for the coaches nor the facilities it sends a clear message to the Fan! We’re still the only northern tier team without an indoor practice facility, and we have all come to know the dangers of promoting family from within. I wonder how things are working out over on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave right now? Oh, anyway, what I’m eluding too is our beloved Brown family football intellect. Not much left, they have zero experience coaching and none of them have EVER even played! This isn’t the corner candy store or the clothing boutique in Western Hills. You can’t expect to have success in this day and age if you’re not willing to illicit assistance and/or expertise from outside, that person must be daring, cunning, and willing to ruffle a feather two. They MUST have a vision and the ability to develop a winning culture. It starts with the leader. The one who is going to lead the men! How can you go into combat with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, when the opponents are eating steak and cheese? Oh, and congrats to the Philadelphia Eagles, they handled their business, period.
Stayed tuned for Part II of "Life as a Bengals Fan!"